Barter in Aligare

Barter is when people trade things/services for other things/services. It takes place without the use of money as an in-between. And before money, everyone would have had to barter with each other, right? It’s easy to imagine barter as some warm and fuzzy mainstay back when everyone knew their neighbours.

Pictured: history and stuff!

Pictured: history and stuff!

Actually, in human society, pure barter has never been that common. From Wikipedia:

Contrary to popular conception, there is no evidence of a society or economy that relied primarily on barter. Instead, non-monetary societies operated largely along the principles of gift economics and debt.When barter did in fact occur, it was usually between either complete strangers or would-be enemies.

So people basically gave, shared and lended as part of their bigger social structure. Objects and services weren’t just objects and services: they were a medium for reputation and status. If you had meat or fruit or supplies, you gifted it to people to honour them, or people would ask you nicely to borrow. Explicit barter was for emergency situations like economic collapse or disasters, or for when you were trading with a complete stranger. Barter was a good tool to have, just in case. It still is today. But it still wasn’t an everyday practice for 98% of humans in history.

Whereas in the Aligare world, barter is a commonly used utensil. Folk place a high value on fairness and collaboration, so negotiating trades just makes sense. It means everyone can get what they want. A person might ask around town to see if someone needs their cloth or metal, or to see if anyone has that foraged herb they’re hoping for. Odd job workers will do minor errands in exchange for food — either portable food or an invition to someone’s home for a hot meal. Travelling merchants take goods of all kinds. Ask Syril of Reyardine if he’ll trade you, and he’ll pretty much always tell you yes.

Happy sepia is a bit more accurate for these guys.

Happy sepia is a bit more accurate for these guys.

Barter works well when everyone has skills or material things to trade. But when Aligare sees difficult times, that’s when gift economics come into play. Folk gift things to their neighbours when those neighbours are in need, because that’s the only decent thing to do. There is some social benefit — in that resourceful, skilled people gain reputation as good leaders and kind providers — but it’s also considered that any good person would do that if they could.

Barter isn’t perfect, though. You have the trouble of determining who wants what, and how to value things without some kind of money as a yardstick. And it’d be a REALLY big headache in a world with complex products and technology. I mean, trying to figure out how many live chickens an iPad is worth probably wouldn’t be a fun time. It’d take patience and understanding.

I’ve heard people describe themselves as “anti-money”, and say we should go back to simple trading. It’s an idea that seems to go well with happy societies. Star Trek, for example, shows a more civilized version of humanity where money is an archaic concept. Maybe it’s easier to avoid greed when trade is about getting people what they want and need — instead of the goal being to collect and keep a vague thing like money. That theory makes sense to me, and I think it makes sense in a socially forward place like the Aligare world.


One Comment on “Barter in Aligare”

  1. […] Barter in Aligare (heidicvlach.wordpress.com) […]


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